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State of the Union: US Sports Betting Update – Puerto Rico Eyes Sports Betting

The US is now firmly in the grip of March Madness and college basketball fans are expected to wager $8.5 billion on the tournament. That estimate comes from the American Gaming Association, which surveyed 11,002 adults this month before drawing conclusions based on the results. It declared that Americans will wager $4.6 billion on brackets, and a further $3.9 billion will go on traditional sports bets. That would see the NCAA Division 1 college basketball tournament eclipse the Super Bowl and retain its status as one of the most important betting events in world sport.

Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló is bidding to introduce legal sports betting in a bid to attract more tourists and boost the island’s economy. The unincorporated US territory is still rebuilding after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in September 2017 and it is in desperate need of an economic fillip. Puerto Rico is bound by US federal law and it was unable to launch legal sports wagering before the Supreme Court struck down PASPA last year. Since then several states have joined Nevada in offering regulated sports betting and Puerto Rico has decided it wants a slice of the action.

“Our administration is committed to new and creative ways to improve the lives of all Puerto Ricans, especially as we continue our reconstruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” said Rosselló. “This legislation, made possible by a Supreme Court decision last year, will make Puerto Rico an attractive place to visit, which will greatly benefit our tourism industry.”

Rosselló provided details of two independent studies designed to estimate the potential size of the sports betting market in Puerto Rico. The first was conducted by The Innovation Group and it estimated that the government would enjoy revenues of $29 million for 2020, $51 million for 2021, $68 million for 2022, $77 million for 2023 and $87 million for 2024. These projections are based on authorizing sports betting on casinos, racecourse, galleries, horse agencies and online games, as Rosselló wants Puerto Rico to jump into the industry with both feet.

A second study from Spectrum Gaming Group estimated that sports bets, both physical and online, could generate between $44 and $62 million annually. It hopes that increased tourism as a result of sports betting would provide a further economic boost. The government of Puerto Rico said sports betting is booming as a result of technological advances and it referenced an American Gaming Association study highlighting the huge economic benefits US states can expect to gain after rolling out legal sportsbooks.

An underwhelming February

However, lawmakers in Delaware and Rhode Island might need a little more convincing after both states recorded pretty dismal figures for February. Delaware was the very first state to legalize sports wagering after PASPA was axed, but its coffers are not exactly bursting at the seams as a result. In February, its operators generated just $22,152 in revenue. The state keeps about 44% of that, but it is still a pretty pitiful total after all the fanfare accompanying the launch.

The three sportsbooks in the state were actually pretty busy: Dover Downs took a handle of $1.7 million, but held just $34,460 in revenue; Harrington Raceway had a handle of almost $1.5 million, but a win of just $16,442; and Delaware Park took $5.3 million in sports bets, but made an overall loss of $28,750. In January, Delaware Park posted revenue of almost $1 million, but bettors were simply much more successful in February. The Super Bowl could have had a big impact there, as a big win for New England Patriots saw many punters cash winning tickets.

That was certainly the case in Rhode Island, where the state’s two sportsbooks lost almost $900,000 in February. The local Patriots fans all backed their team heavily and Tom Brady and co duly delivered with a 13-3 victory. Both properties are operated by Twin River, and one posted revenue of $17,600, but the other lost $908,000. We now have four months of data for the Rhode Island sports betting industry and total revenue stands at just $150,000, so the much-touted economic boost has not really been forthcoming.

Sweet home Alabama

However, that has deterred other states from pushing for legal sports betting. Thirty-seven out of 50 states have now introduced or considered sports wagering bills and Alabama is the latest to get involved. HB 315 seeks to create the Alabama Sports Wagering Commission, which would regulate sports betting at seven different sites across the state, with mobile wagering also launching. It wants to charge a pretty reasonable application fee of $100,000 per license and take a 10% tax on the gross revenue. Sites where pari-mutuel betting is already in operation would be apply to apply for licenses, and that includes a greyhound track in Birmingham and a few off-track operations dotted about the state.

Iowa is also pressing ahead with plans to introduce sports betting. Senator Roby Smith’s bill, SF 366, advanced through the Senate Ways and Means Committee this week. That means the entire chamber will be able to vote on it in the coming days. The bill would allow licensed riverboat casinos and racetracks to take wagers on sporting events, while third-party online operators could also enter the market. The legislative session ends next month, but there is a similar bill in the House and Iowa’s push for sports betting is really gathering momentum.

Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri are all exploring regulated industries, so Iowa is hoping to steal a march. It has casinos near the borders of all of those states and they are popular with out of state tourists, giving its local economy a boost. Smith and other proponents of sports betting claim it would keep these visitors coming.

So pervasive it cannot be denied

Alaska is exploring a new law that seeks to introduce sports betting along with card rooms. It would create an Alaskan Gaming Commission to regulate the market.

New Hampshire is also making a concerted push to introduce sports wagering before the current legislative session ends. The Senate passed legislation to authorise it by a vote of 269-82 this week. Senator Lou D’Allesandro is backing the bid and he told Legal Sports Report: “With it being March Madness, you get more and more people thinking about sports betting and I think it carries with it its own momentum. We put it through when we thought it could pass. Timing is everything in this life.”

Author: Kristian

Kristian heads up the content and SEO team at Digital Fuel having worked in digital marketing for ten years. He’s as passionate about creative content as he is about Brighton & Hove Albion FC and when he’s not following football he’s writing about Brighton’s bustling pub scene.

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